A-Level Essay: To what extent does the art of the Edo period of Japan reflect the contentment of the classes within its society?

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Beatrice Millward, last updated: 1st December 2006

The Edo period in Japanese history fell between the years 1600 and 1867, beginning when Tokugawa Ieyatsu, a daimyo (samurai lord), became the strongest power in Japan, and ending with Tokugawa Keiki’s abdication. The Tokugawas claimed the hereditary title of Shogun, supreme governor of Japan. (The emperor had become a figurehead, with the imperial family relying on the Shogun for monetary support.) It was a time of internal change as Japan’s focus ‘shifted from war to peace’ and its society began to resemble the modern form. It was also a time of change in the arts, with the introduction of the woodblock print, inspired by the wealthy townspeople and merchants, newly prominent. I intend to investigate this art, looking at what it can tell us about the contentment of the classes in this time of social upheaval. The Tokugawa shogunate passed a series of laws defining a rigid caste system, from samurai at the top...

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